All 5 presidential bets face off in Pangasinan debate

Mara Cepeda

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All 5 presidential bets face off in Pangasinan debate
The debate on Sunday, April 24, follows a town hall format – questions are sourced from sectoral representatives across the country. Candidates also challenge each other in a 'face-off' segment.

PANGASINAN, Philippines – Voters will have their final chance to scrutinize all 5 presidential candidates as they go head-to-head in the last leg of the PiliPinas Debate 2016 series. 

Vice President Jejomar Binay, Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, Senator Grace Poe, former interior secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas II, and Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago are all attending the debate on Sunday, April 24. (READ: How are presidential bets preparing for the final April 24 debate?)

Santiago missed the previous debate in Cebu City because she had to undergo a clinical trial for an anti-cancer pill.

The Pangasinan debate is being organized by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) together with ABS-CBN, Manila Bulletin, the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas, and the Phinma University of Pangasinan, the debate venue.

The debate will follow a town hall format: pre-screened questions will be asked by sectoral representatives across the country. Some queries will also be sourced from ABS-CBN’s “Halalan Hugot” online campaign.

May konting excitement din dahil ‘yun pong mga kababayan natin na galing pa sa iba’t-ibang bahagi ng Pilipinas ay biniyahe pa namin dito sa Pangasinan para personal at direktang makausap at makapagtanong sila sa mga kandidato na nanliligaw sa kanilang mga boto,” said ABS-CBN integrated news and current affairs head Ging Reyes in a press briefing on Saturday.

(There will be a bit of excitement because we brought to Pangasinan some of our countrymen coming from different parts of the Philippines. They will have the chance to personally and directly speak with and ask questions of the candidates who are wooing them.)

Topics to be tackled during the debate include the following:

  • Metro traffic and public transport
  • Job security
  • Health
  • Foreign policy
  • Basic public education
  • Concerns of overseas Filipino workers
  • Peace for Mindanaoans in conflict areas

The candidates will also have the chance to challenge each other during the debate’s “face-off segment.” Pairings were done through drawing of lots. 

Reyes also said that every presidential bet will be asked to deliver his or her opening and closing statements, but she did not specify how much time will be allotted for the candidates’ speaking times throughout the program. 

Airing time, commercials

The Pangasinan debate will air live from 6 pm to 9 pm on television through ABS-CBN, ANC, and TFC, the Filipino channel, and may be heard on radio via dzMM.

Of the 3 hours, 40 minutes will be dedicated to commercial advertisements. Another two minutes will be allotted for Comelec infomercials.

The debate will also be live-streamed by different news organizations because ABS-CBN will be sharing their YouTube embed code.

This comes after the Supreme Court voted 14-0 to partially grant Rappler’s petition to stop Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista from restricting online access to the debates. (READ: Comelec chair discriminated vs Internet-based media – Leonen)

The High Court ruled that the vice presidential debate on April 10 and the presidential debate on April 24 can now be “shown or live-streamed unaltered in petitioner’s and other websites subject to the copyright condition that the source clearly indicated.”

Seating arrangement

The debate will be held inside the Phinma University of Pangasinan’s student plaza, which will seat 1,200 people during the debate.

Five hundred of these seats will be reserved for the candidates’ supporters – 100 per presidential bet.

The rest of the seats will be allotted to the candidates’ campaign teams, Comelec, sectoral representatives, and students and faculty members of the Phinma University of Pangasinan. 

Media coverage

Apart from the media organizers, 30 journalists from other news organizations are allowed to cover the debate in the student plaza. Five slots are allotted for the national and international media, respectively, and 20 seats for local media. Slots were raffled off before the debate.

They will be prohibited from broadcasting live inside the student plaza. 

Live-tweeting text and photos will be allowed, provided this is done “judiciously” and does not disrupt the program, said Reyes. 

The rest of the accredited media may cover the event inside several rooms that were converted into a media center, that will be opened at 1 pm. The rooms are across the student plaza. 

Official photos will be sourced from Manila Bulletin and ABS-CBN.

Just like the previous presidential and vice presidential debates, ambush interviews before and during the program will not be allowed. 

Interviews with the candidates and members of their camps can only be done inside the media center after the debate proper. –

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at or tweet @maracepeda.